Climate & Energy

Permits for me but not for thee

Max Baucus wrangles a sweet deal for Montana rural co-ops in the Lieberman-Warner bill

One bit of shenanigans that went on in the backroom negotiations over Lieberman-Warner was the effort by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) to exempt his state’s rural electricity cooperatives from the bill’s tough emission reduction targets. Now the Great Falls Tribune has picked up the story: Montana’s senior senator inserted a provision into a climate change bill pending in Congress that would give the rural electric co-ops in his state until 2035 to fully curtail their greenhouse gas emissions. The bill requires utility companies in other states to comply by 2012. Baucus, a moderate Democrat who represents a major coal-producing state, …

Maine rejects coal, embraces wind power

Three cheers for the people of Maine (Mainites? Mainians? Mainists?): The community of Wiscasset rejected a zoning ordinance change that would have allowed a new coal gasification plant, while the state’s Land Use Regulation Commission approved a 57 MW wind farm in Washington County. Give ‘em all a lobster!

Who are you calling sensible, punk?

Hillary Clinton struggles to explain away her previous opposition to corn ethanol

Over the years, Hillary Clinton has voted against subsidies and mandates for corn ethanol in the Senate a number of times. If you know anything about corn ethanol, you know that’s a good thing. When Clinton released her (otherwise excellent) energy plan this week, it contained a whole boatload of … subsidies and mandates for corn ethanol. That is, conversely, a bad thing. Obama’s campaign took the opportunity to bash Clinton for it — not for switching from a sensible position to a more politically convenient but substantively wrong position, but for … having the sensible position in the first …

The political climate is changing: Part II

How should the presidential candidates convey the issue of climate change to the public?

This post is by ClimateProgress guest blogger Bill Becker, Executive Director of the Presidential Climate Action Project. ----- We've seen in Part I that the political climate is changing. How should presidential candidates talk about climate in the 2008 campaign? My advice to the candidates is to love the global warming deniers and delayers to death and to handle the economic issue head-on. Invite them into constructive discussion. Elevate the dialogue. Emphasize without stopping or deviation that climate change is not a partisan issue, and it should not be a political issue. Talk about the massive new global markets awaiting innovative American technologies, about climate change as the next great challenge for the nation's genius, about how tackling climate change is our path to security and prosperity in the 21st century. It happens to be the truth. Follow Barack Obama's example of truth-telling. He had the guts earlier this year to tell the Detroit Economic Club that we need to raise CAFE standards. He won praise from Time columnist Joe Klein this week for refusing to pander to voters. Klein spent a day with Obama in Iowa and watched him handle a question about global warming. Obama talked about the need for a cap-and-trade regime to reduce carbon emissions, then said: "One of the themes of this campaign is to tell voters what they need to hear, not just what they want to hear ... So I've got to tell you there will be a cost to this -- and the utility companies will pass it along to consumers. You can expect a spike in electricity prices." Then he added the critical message: new technologies will eventually bring prices back down. Obama also could have said this:

Lieberman introduces bill to designate Arctic Refuge as wilderness

Part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would be designated as wilderness under legislation introduced today by Sen. Joe Lieberman and 25 colleagues. Wilderness designation for the 1.5-million-acre coastal plains region would rebuff seemingly nonstop attempts to drill for oil and gas there. Says Lieberman in a stroke of analogy genius, “America’s strength is not in our oil reserves, but in our reserves of innovation.”

What price carbon?

How high a price on carbon is needed to make renewables competitive?

I’ve argued before that electricity cost comparisons are, in Walt Patterson’s memorable phrase, "an artifact of prior decisions otherwise concealed" — i.e., based on unstated moral, social, and economic assumptions. Most of those assumptions, for reasons of habit, custom, and occasionally pecuniary interest, are weighted toward the traditional way of doing things: a hub-and-spoke electricity grid driven by massive coal, gas, nuclear, and hydro plants. (To take just one example: the costs of grid transmission and distribution are not counted against central plants, even though small-scale distributed generation substantially reduces those costs.) In my moderately informed but widely broadcast opinion, …